The 2021 Cadillac Escalade promises more luxury, more technology — and yes, a higher price tag — than anything that’s come before. In fact, building out a Sport Platinum Escalade ESV can set you back nearly $120,000 with all available options. With such an expensive SUV, “off-roader” is the last word most people would associate with GM’s most expensive models. It is still a body-on-frame SUV with a V-8 engine and four-wheel drive, though. On that basis, you should be able to take the Escalade up a poorly-maintained road or most other places you may need to drive yourself and up to seven other passengers in leather-lined comfort. In this video, we test the 2021 Cadillac Escalade off the beaten track to see just how capable it is, and if it’s still, at its heart, a tough and robust SUV off-road.
Underneath, the 2021 Cadillac Escalade does have a proper available low-speed transfer case, like a full-size truck. Our particular model eschews the mechanical transfer case for the terrain mode settings instead, but the “Autotrac” transfer case is an option on some models. The Escalade also has air suspension for a bit of extra ground clearance. Still, with an SUV that’s 211 inches long (or 226.9 if you buy the ESV), some obstacles may still be tricky for the nearly 6,000 pound SUV to handle.
The 2021 Cadillac Escalade came to us on Bridgestone all-season tires and, more worryingly, 22-inch polished wheels. We figured the 420 horsepower V-8 engine with 460 lb-ft of torque would overwhelm the tires on a loose surface, or the SUV’s systems wouldn’t figure out how to properly distribute that power on technical obstacles. On a side note, that “600” badge on the back refers to the engine’s torque output in newton-meters rounded down. Hmm.
Anyway, even up some of the trickier obstacles of Tombstone Hill, the 2021 Cadillac Escalade was surprisingly capable. Up the “truth” side of Tombstone Hill, a challenging 30-degree incline, the SUV made it up without too much drama. Even up the rocky “dare” side, this $102,000 Escalade proved beyond a shadow of doubt that it’s more than just a boulevard cruiser.